Scania P380 8x4 truck review

By: Gary Worrall


Scania’s P380 8x4 is a barely flawed piece of kit that makes light work of a local beer run. Gary Worrall put his hands to the wheel

Scania P380 8x4 truck review
Scania’s P380 8x4.

 

The beer — if nothing else — must always get through. And Scania’s P380 8x4 makes light work of the task.

Brisbane operator Eventrans has a number of contracts delivering to Liquor Land and First Choice outlets throughout Queensland.

It has recently taken delivery of a pair of rigid curtain-sider P380s — complete with onboard scales and the ability to pull a dog trailer — to finish the task and can’t speak highly enough about them.

ATN joined one driver on a run up the coast with a full deck of valuable cargo.

After getting behind the wheel it’s hard to disagree with the driver that the P380 is one impressive piece of machinery.

As anyone who has ever walked around an 8x4 can tell you, there is no such thing as a good looking one. Functional, yes; rugged, definitely; good looking, no chance.

Something about that extra steer axle behind the cab just makes the truck look off-putting.

Despite that, the P380 has one advantage: the base truck is actually quite easy on the eye, and once you get above the axle line that is what you see. Just walking towards the truck the eye is drawn to the deep U-shaped grille, flanked by a pair of snorkels diverting air around the corners of the cab.

As with most modern designs, the P-Series cab is actually raked slightly backwards, at about five degrees, rather than being a straight up and down design, which would offer the aerodynamic performance of a besser block.

This curvature continues over the roof and sloped windscreen. A sunshade hangs out over the top of the window, easing the burden for the driver, with an air deflector also available to push the slipstream up over the top of the body.

With the grille and front underrun protection system, or FUPS-compliant bumper finished in a hard-wearing grey, the P380 is immune to minor bumps and scrapes.

But with a truck as manoeuvrable as this one, that shouldn’t really be an issue anyway.

The doors are big and wide, with a full 90 degree opening. There’s a bit of a step from ground level to the bottom step but it’s not uncomfortable, particularly with the two grab rails that make up the three recommended contact points for entry and exit.

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Overall, the cab exterior comes across as high quality, with top-class finish on the paint and the close, even panel gaps that indicate the P380 is a well-built vehicle.

With most work during daylight hours, the Eventrans trucks passed on the low-slung driving and fog lights. But the large H4 headlights recessed into the corners of the cab structure throw a fairly respectable pool of light down the road, as well as warning oncoming cars of your presence – in case they missed the four-metre-high gargantuan as it rolls along the blacktop.

While alloy wheels are an option, Eventrans also stuck with the pressed steel wheels for the P380s. They work well, giving the twin steer a purposeful look. This is a work truck, not a show pony.

Other touches around the truck include LED indicators, 1,000 litres of fuel capacity, a toolbox on the right-hand side, easy access to the curtain release and tensioner, and rails down both sides for the curtain buckles.

Engine

The Scania P380 features a DC12 13 380 six-cylinder engine. During our test, there was always plenty of usable power from the engine, with 1,900Nm (1,400ft-lb) of torque between 1,100-1,350rpm and peak power of 280kW (375hp) at 1,800rpm.

Transmission

While the P380 uses the 12-speed automated manual OptiCruise transmission, it retains a clutch pedal for starting in first or reverse, as well as coming to a dead stop after driving.

The pedal is lightly sprung, which makes for easy take offs without creating ‘clutch knee’ — a familiar ailment in heavy clutch pedal situations. Balancing between the clutch and the park brake requires minimal practice to get it right — eventually.

Cab and Controls

After making the climb up into the cab, the first impression is one of order. Switches and dials are kept to a minimum, and the ones that are used give the feel of a lot of work to get their position right for optimum driver ergonomics.

The driver scores an Isri air-suspension seat, which, in concert with the cab air-suspension, guarantees a smooth ride over even the roughest of roads. It’s not a bad idea when you are carrying that much glass in the curtainsider.

The seat in the Scania is a joy for the ergonomically challenged, with adjustable lumbar support and a delightfully upright driving position which draws the body in and holds it in the most comfortable, yet anatomically correct, position for long or short-haul driving.

The big steering wheel is height and reach adjustable – just flick the little lock switch at the left front of the column, and then push and pull until you are happy with the result.

In front of the driver are large dials for the speedo and tacho, with smaller dials for temperature, fuel gauge and brake pressures, as well as screens for the engine management and vehicle monitoring systems.

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While not everyone agrees with these screens, I am a bit of a fan. Rather than overload the driver with a mass of dials that must be scanned every few seconds to look for abnormalities, the screen is programmed to immediately flash a warning light to the driver if a reading goes out of normal parameters, and then bring the offending display up in front of the driver.

There is also the option to program favourite displays, so that if you really want to see the second-by-second air pressures, that is what the screen will run for you. Personally, I find that I am able to spend more time concentrating on what is happening in my mirrors and on the road around me, without being worried the engine is about to explode.

To the driver’s right are rocker switches for the air-suspension and headlights and hazards, as well as door-mounted switches for the power mirrors and windows.

Which brings up one complaint: there is no driver’s side spotter mirror. While the passenger side enjoys both long and short views down the truck, as well as a ‘look down’ mirror for parallel parking, the driver’s side only gets the single main mirror — despite having blanks for a spotter to be fitted at the factory.

The Eventrans guys had fitted a small aftermarket unit, but it’s nowhere near as good as the factory unit on the left-side door and this is a real disappointment after the otherwise high standard of the truck.

The steering wheel itself is a classic European multi-function unit, with thumb controls for the stereo and telephone, while the base of the wheel scores the dual cruise control functions.

Yes, you read right, dual cruise controls: one for highway cruising and another for what is effectively a hill descent control, which the driver sets on the approach to a steep hill. With this engaged you can sit back and let the computers use a combination of gears, retarders and brakes to maintain the selected speed while you concentrate on getting the perfect line through the next corner.

Left of the driver are the ‘comfort’ controls, for the AM/FM/CD stereo, air-conditioning and cabin lighting — all important, but not crucial, so they are grouped together inboard of the park brake release.

The wheel itself has two stalks, one left and one right. The right stick has the gear selector, manual up/down shift control and the multi-stage retarder, which is quite possibly the most effective, yet the quietest, I have ever driven. On the left is the indicator and windscreen wipers, all within easy reach should they be needed in a hurry.

Two more flaws need addressing, including the incredibly slippery surface of the vinyl between the seats and the rear storage space.

While it is a nice big open space, ideal for holding manifests, work diaries and other important paperwork, the reality is it is slipperier than ice and acts as a launching pad for said important documents. Regular driver Dave Baildon lays a beach towel across the space then puts his books on top of that.

The other gripe is more serious than it sounds initially, with the two cup holders placed at the rear of the storage bin so that you need to turn your entire body around to reach your tall butterscotch latte. Predictably the truck suddenly begins to drift left as your remaining hand drags the steering wheel around in concert with the rest of your body.

If Scania can fix those items, then it could potentially have the most-user friendly cabin on the market in Australia. Drivers would be lining up for a test.

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Performance

ATN joined Baildon as he did his daily pre-trip inspection, which brought forth more praise for the P-Series. He demonstrates that just one latch flicks the grille skyward, allowing easy access to the oil, water and brake fluids.

Flip the grille back into place and the bottom half drops down to become a step, for quick, easy and safe washing of the windscreen, complete with a hand grip to ensure you do not slip.

Standing next to the truck while the forkies finish loading up is testament to the work done by Scania in reducing the noise levels of the DC12 six cylinder engine. Instead of being drowned out, Baildon is able to explain the schedule in normal conversation.

Taking my seat behind the wheel once we were locked and loaded, it was a case of clutch in, select ‘D’ on the column stalk, park brake off, ease the clutch out, and away we went, whispering our way through the yard as the OptiCruise selected second gear.

Reaching the main gate, where we stopped for a right turn, I received a swift reminder that the clutch was for starting AND stopping, with the truck stalling as the revs fell too low.

Baildon explains the twin steer can take some getting used to, as it changes the pivot point to further back than a regulation single steer axle. But for some reason I found myself immediately in tune with the steering and had no problems picking the correct lines as we headed north along the Gateway Motorway.

Hitting the 100km/h zone almost immediately, I found myself experimenting with different approaches, getting settled into the rhythm of the road. This is a relaxing rig to drive; you just fall into step with it.

Without any prompting I discovered the cruise control on the bottom of the wheel and dialled up a comfortable 99km/h, which had the tacho sitting happily at about 1,400rpm — right in the engine’s ‘green zone’ for economical driving.

With a relatively clear road ahead, it was easy work to thread the heavyweight rigid among the slower traffic. The steering was just heavy enough to ensure you were getting feedback on where the wheels were pointed without being tedious or cumbersome, while remaining light enough for parking and reversing into loading docks.

Picking up some heavier traffic after the Bruce Highway merge, there were a few opportunities to try out the multi-stage Scania Retarder, which proved to be possibly the most impressive single item of hardware.

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While there was no need for a panic stop at any time, knowing that the Retarder was capable of washing off huge amounts of speed in virtually no time at all means an attentive driver can get away with hardly using the brake pedal.

In fact, in a conversation at the end of the day, boss man Craig Marriott says they have an older model Scania with the same retarder that has clocked up 900,000km without a brake pad change.

More importantly, if it was an emergency, knowing that not only are there disc brakes on each axle but you also have ABS, EBS and anti-skid, plus the retarder to help keep you out of an accident, is a very reassuring feeling.

Inside noise levels are impressively quiet, not just from the engine but road noise in general as well as a lack of wind noise, despite the fairly impressive frontal area of the cab-over design.

Taking the Caloundra exit exposed the P380 to a couple of nice long downhill descents, usually ending in a roundabout, which proved an excellent opportunity to test out the retarder. With barely a hiss audible in the cab, our speed fell away from the posted 100km/h down to the new limit of 60km/h, and then down to a more appropriate 35km/h through the roundabouts, all without needing any assistance from the wheel brakes.

As we neared our first drop of the day, the well-sorted steering came into its own. Reversing into the dock the Scania airbags are able to be locked into a single height, to compensate for the reducing payload as we offloaded multiple pallets with the Anteo electric tailgate. With a load of empty pallets for the warehouse it was back on the highway and heading south to reload for our next run.

Over the course of the day we did two more runs, working a full 10-hour day. The shift included two loads with a dog trailer, bringing our GCM up to the 42-tonne mark. Despite all the extra weight, the P380 performed flawlessly throughout. It never felt over-worked.

The combination of the Retarder and disc brakes took care of the stopping while the airbag-suspension meant we were literally floating on air throughout the day.

The only flaw to come from the driving experience is one I have with a number of trucks, and that is a blindspot to the left approaching T-intersections, caused by the combination mirrors. But it’s yet to prove disastrous, and I would rather have excellent rear vision and a blindspot I can make adjustments to eliminate.

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Verdict

Frankly, the P380 is an all-round exceptional performer — not perfect, but certainly a lot closer than some of its rivals.

The feedback from the drivers says it all: after the pair of P380s had been in service for about a week, the pilots had dubbed them Daisy 1 and 2 on the basis that when you drive them you finish the day feeling fresh as … well, you get the idea. I’m inclined to agree.

The final word should go to Marriott, who let slip he is looking to purchase more of the P380s for a new contract. You don’t do that unless you are satisfied with the truck’s performance.

 

Likes:

  • Outstanding cab comfort
  • Impressively low noise levels
  • Incredibly effective Scania Retarder

Dislikes:

  • Lack of driver’s side spotter mirror
  • Slippery finish to work space vinyl
  • Cup holders way out of reach and sight

 

Specifications

Make/Model: Scania P380 8x4 Rigid

Engine: Scania DC12 13 380 six cylinder, four valves per cylinder,

Emission Control: Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR)

Emission Level: Euro 4

Power/Torque: 280kW@1,800rpm (376hp) / 1,900Nm@1,100-1,350rpm (1401ft-lb)

Transmission: 12-speed Scania Opticruise automated manual, with clutch pedal for first and reverse.

GCM/GVM: 33,200kg / 60,000kg

 

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